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Published by: manoj nair on Aug 08, 2011
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I CROUCHED below the great ramparts, making myself into
a tightly curled ball while I tried to peer through a slight
opening. My legs were raging, searing bars of fire which, I
was afraid, would erupt blood at any moment. But I Had
to stay, Had to endure the discomfort of lying cramped and
frightened while I tried to scan the far horizon. Here, in
my present position, I was almost on top of the world! I
could get no higher without taking wings, or—the thought
appealed to me—being lofted by some mighty kite. The
wind swirled and howled about me, tearing at the Prayer
Flags, moaning under the roofs of the Golden Tombs, and
every now and then blowing a rain of fine mountain dust
on my unprotected head.
Early in the morning I had stolen out and with fear and
trembling made my secret way through little-used corri-
dors and passages. Stopping to listen every few steps, I
had with extreme caution at last emerged upon the Sacred
Roof, the Roof where only the Inmost One and his very
closest friends were free to go. Here there was DANGER.
My heart throbbed anew at the thought of it. Here, if I were
caught, I would be expelled from the Order in the most
dire disgrace. Expelled? What should I do then? Panic
welled within me, and for a long moment I was on the point
of fleeing down to the lower regions where I belonged.
Common sense prevented me, to go down now, with my
mission unaccomplished, would be failure indeed.
Expelled in disgrace? What SHOULD I do? I had no
home, my father had told me that “ Home”' was home no
longer to me—I must make my own way in life. My


wandering eye caught the sparkle of the Happy River,
sought the dark boatman in his yak-hide boat, and my
mind cleared. THAT'S what I would do, I would be a boat-
man! For greater security I edged along the Golden Roof,
safe now even from the sight of the Inmost One, should he
venture out in this wind. My legs trembled with the strain,
and hunger rumbled within me. A patter of rain solved one
problem, I bent and moistened my lips on a small pool that
had formed.

Would he NEVER come? Anxiously I scanned the distant
horizon. I—yes; I rubbed my eyes with the backs of my
hands and stared again. There was a little cloud of dust!
From the direction of Pari! Forgotten for the moment was
the pain in my legs, forgotten too was the ever-present
danger of being seen. I stood and stared. Far far away a
little group of horsemen was approaching along the Valley
of Lhasa. The storm was increasing, and the cloud of dust
raised by the horses' hooves was whipped away almost as
soon as it was formed. I peered and peered, trying to shield
my eyes from the cutting wind and still not miss anything.
The trees were bending away from the gale. Leaves
fluttered madly, then broke away and raced wind-borne
off into the unknown. The lake by the Serpent Temple
was no longer mirror-placid; seething waves surged along
to break madly against the far bank. Birds, wise to the
ways of our weather, walked cautiously to shelter, always
keeping head to wind. Through the strings of Prayer
Flags, now almost breaking-tight with the pressure, came a
direful thrumming, while from the great trumpets fastened
to the roof below came hoarse bellowings as the wind
ebbed and swirled around their mouthpieces. Here, on
the very highest part of the Golden Roof, I could feel
tremors, strange scrapings, and sudden splats of ancient
dust driven from the rafters below.
A horrid premonition, and I turned uneasily in time to


glimpse a ghastly black figure rushing upon me. Clammy
arms wound around me, choking me, striking me violent
blows. I could not scream—I had no breath! A stinking
black cloud enveloped me, making me retch with the vile
odor. No light, just shrieking darkness, and SMELL! No
air, just that nauseous gas!
I shuddered. My sins had found me out. An Evil Spirit
had attacked me and was about to carry me off: Oh! I
muttered, why DID I disobey the Law and climb to Sacred
Ground? Then my bad temper got the upper hand. No!
I would NOT be carried off by Devils. I would fight and
FIGHT anyone at all. Frantically, in blind panic and furious
temper, I lashed out, tearing great chunks out of the
“Devil.” Relief flooded through me, and I laughed the high-
pitched laugh of near-hysteria. I had been frightened by
an old, old goat-skin tent, rotten with age, which had been
blown at me by the wind. Now its shreds were being
carried in the direction of Lhasa!
But the storm had the last word; with a triumphant
howl a great gust arose which slid me along the slippery
roof. My scrabbling hands sought in vain for a hold, I tried
to force myself tighter to the roof, but all to no avail. I
reached the very edge, teetered, teetered, and fell feather-
light into the astonished arms of an old lama who gaped
open-mouthed at me as I appeared—it seemed to him—
from the sky itself, borne on the wind!
As was the way of the storms of Lhasa, all the tumult
and commotion had died. The wind was lulled and now
merely sighed wistfully around the golden eaves and
played gently with the great trumpets. Overhead the clouds
still raced over the mountains and were whipped to shreds
with the speed of their passing. I was not so calm, though,
there was much “storm” within me. CAUGHT! I muttered
to myself CAUGHT like the biggest ninny in the Lamasery.
Now I'll have to be a boatman or yak herder. Now I'm


REALLY in trouble! “Sir!” I said in a quavering voice.
“Lama Custodian of the Tombs, I was . . .”
“Yes, yes, my boy,” said the old lama soothingly. “I saw
it all, I saw you borne from the ground by the gale. You are
blessed of the Gods!”
I looked at him. He looked at me. Then he realized that
he was still holding me in his arms—he had been too
stunned with surprise to think about it before. Gently he
put me down. I stole a glimpse in the direction of Pari. No!
I could not see Them now. They must have stopped, I . . .
“Honorable Custodian!” a voice bawled. “Did you see
that boy flying over the Mountain? The Gods took him,
Peace be to his soul!” I turned round. Framed in a small
hatchway was a rather simple old monk named Timon.
Timon was one of those who swept the Temples and did
odd jobs. He and I were old friends. Now, as he looked at
me and recognized me, his eyes widened in astonishment.
“The Blessed Mother Dolma protect you!” he exclaimed.
“So it was you!!! A few days ago the storm blew you off
this roof and now another storm puts you back. “Tis in-
deed a miracle.”
“But I was—I started to say, but the old Lama broke in,
“Yes, Yes We know, we saw it all. I came in the course of
my duties to see that all was well, and you FLEW UP OVER
THE ROOF BEFORE ME!” I felt a bit gloomy, so they
thought a rotting old goat-skin tent, tattered and frayed, was
ME! Oh well, let them think it. Then I thought how I had been
frightened, how I had thought evil spirits were fighting me.
Cautiously I looked about to see if any of the old tent was in
sight. No, I had shredded it in my struggles and all the bits had
blown away.

“Look! Look!” shrieked Timon. “There's proof! Look
at him, LOOK AT HIM!” I looked down at myself and saw I
had a string of Prayer Flags twisted around me. Clutched
in my hand I still grasped half a flag. The old lama clucked
and clucked and clucked, and led the way down, but—I


turned abruptly and rushed to the wall peering out again
over the ramparts hoping to see my beloved Guide, the
Lama Mingyar Dondup, coming into sight in the far
distance. But the far distance was blotted out completely
by the raging storm which had left us and was now sweep-
ing down the valleys leaving flying dust, flying leaves,
and no doubt the remnants of the old goat-skin tent.
The old Custodian of the Tombs came back and peered
over the ramparts with me. “Yes! Yes!” he said. “I saw you
come up the other side of the wall, you were fluttering in
front of me supported on the wind, and then I saw you fall
on the very highest pan of the Golden Tomb Roof; I
could not bear to look. I saw you struggling to maintain
your balance, and I covered my eyes with my hand.” A
good thing, too, I thought, or you would have seen me
fighting off the old goat-skin tent, and then you would
have known that I had been up there all the time. Then I
should have been in for trouble.
There was a babble of conversation as we turned and
went through the doorway leading to the other buildings
below, a babble of conversation. There were a group of
monks and lamas, each one testifying that they had seen
me scooped up from the lower reaches of the mountain
path and lifted straight up flapping my arms. They had
thought that I was going to be crushed against the walls
or blown straight over the Potala, not one of them had ex-
pected to see me alive again, not one of them had been
able to discern through the dust and stinging wind that it
was not I being lofted, but part of a goat-skin tent.
“Ai! Ai!” said one. “I saw it myself—with my very own
eyes. There he was, on the ground sheltering from the
wind and—POOF! Suddenly he was flying over my head
with his arms a-flap. I never thought I'd see the like ofit.”
“Yes! Yes!” said another. “I was looking out of the window,
wondering at the commotion, and just as I saw this boy


blown towards me I got my eyes full of dust. He nearly
kicked my face as he passed.”
“That's nothing!" cried a third. “He DID strike me,
nearly buffeted my brains out. I was out on the parapet
and he came flying by me, I tried to grab him, and he nearly
tore my robe off pulled it right over my head, he did—I was
blinded, couldn't see a thing for a time. When I could—he was
gone. Ah well, I thought, his time has come, but now I see he
is still here.”

I was passed from hand to hand much as though I was a
prize-winning butter statue. Monks felt me, lamas prod-
ded me, and no one would let me explain that I had NOT
been blown on to the roof but almost blown OFF. “A
miracle!” said an old man who was on the outskirts. Then—
“Oh! Look out, here comes the Lord Abbot!” The crowd
respectfully made way for the golden-robed figure who
now appeared among us.
“What is this?” he asked. “Why are you so congregated
together? Explain to me,” he said as he turned to the most
senior lama present. At some length, and with much help
from the constantly growing crowd, the matter was “explained.”
I stood there wishing the floor would open and drop me down
. . . to the kitchen! I was hungry, having had nothing to eat
since the night before.
“Come with me!” commanded the Lord Abbot. The
senior lama took an arm and helped me, for I was, tired,
frightened, aching, and hungry. We went into a large room
which I had not previously seen. The Lord Abbot seated
himself and sat in silence as he thought of that which he
had been told. “Tell me again, omitting nothing,” he said
to the lama. So, once again I heard of my “marvelous
flight from the ground to the Tomb of the Holy One.”
Just then my empty stomach gave a loud, warning rumble
that it needed food. The Lord Abbot, trying not to smile,
said, “Take him so that he may eat. I imagine that his


ordeal has strained him. Then call the Honorable
Herbalist Lama Chin to examine him for injuries. But let
him eat first.”

Food! It tasted good! “You certainly have an up-and-
down life, Lobsang,” said the friendly cook-monk. “First
you get blown off the roof and thrown down the mountain.
and now they tell me you have been blown from the bottom
of the mountain to the top of the roof! An up-and-down
life, and the Devil looks after his own!” Off he went,
chuckling at his own wit. I did not mind, he was always
kind to me and helped me in many little ways. Another
friend greeted me; a rasping, roaring purr and a hearty
butt against my legs made me look down. One of the cats
had come to claim his share of my attention. Idly I let my
fingers trail up and down his spine, making him purr
louder and louder. A slight rustle from the direction of the
barley sacks—and he was gone like a flash, silently.
I moved to the window and peered out over Lhasa. No
sign of the small party led by my Guide the Lama Mingyar
Dondup. Had he been caught by the storm? I wondered.
Wondered too, how much longer he would be returning.
“. . . tomorrow, then, eh?” I turned. One of the kitchen
hangers-on had been saying something and I had caught
only the end. “Yes,” said another, “they are staying at the
Rose Fence tonight and returning tomorrow.”
“Oh!” I said. “Are you talking about my Guide, the Lama
Mingyar Dondup?”
“Yes! It seems that we shall have to put up with you for yet
another day, Lobsang,” said one of the hangers-on. “But that
reminds me—the Honorable Infirmarian is waiting for you;
you'd better hurry.”
I slouched gloomily off thinking that there were too
many troubles in the world. Why should my Guide have to
stop on his journey and stay perhaps a day and a night at
the Rose Fence Lamasery? At that stage of my existence I
thought that only my affairs were of importance, and I did


not fully realize the great work that the Lama Mingyar
Dondup was doing for others. I slouched along the cor-
ridor to the Infirmarian’s office; he was just coming
out, but as he saw me he grabbed my arm and led
me back. “Now what have you been doing? There is
always some incident or item whenever you come to the

I moodily stood before him and told him only that which
eye-witnesses had seen about the wind and about the
great storm. I did not tell him that I was already on the
Golden Roof for, as I knew, his first thought would be to
report to the Inmost One.
“Well, take off your robe, I have to examine you for
injuries and then I have to give a report on your condition.”
I shrugged off my robe and threw it on a low bench. The
Infirmarian knelt and probed and prodded to see if I
had any bones broken or muscles torn. He was rather sur-
prised that my only injuries, apart from my damaged legs,
were that I was covered with blue-black bruises, some
with yellow overtones!
“Here—take this, and rub it well into yourself,” he said
standing up and reaching to a high shelf, and bringing
down a leather jar full of some herbal ointment which had
a most powerful stink. “Do not rub it on here,” he said. “I
do not want to be gassed out, they are your bruises after

“Honorable Infirmarian,” I said, “is it true that my
Guide is having to stop at the Rose Fence Lamasery?”
“Yes, he is having to treat an abbot there, and I do not
expect that he will be returning here until late tomorrow.
So we have to put up with you a while longer,” he said, and
then added slyly, “You will be able to enjoy the lectures by
our respected Indian Teacher-Visitor.” I looked at him and
the thought occurred to me that the old Infirmarian had no
greater love for the Indian Teacher than I had. However,
there was no time now to deal with that. The sun was


directly overhead and it was time I was going to our lecture
hall again.

First I went to the dormitory where I stripped off my
robe and rubbed in the stinking ointment. Then I wiped
my hands on my robe, put it on again, and made my way
back to the lecture hall, taking my place at the back as far
away from the Indian Teacher as I could.
The other boys came in, small boys, medium-sized boys,
and big boys, all crammed in together because this was a
special event, a visit by a very noted Indian Teacher and
it was thought that we boys would profit by hearing
Buddhism as taught by another culture.
As we sat waiting for the Teacher, boys were audibly
sniffing. The ones near to me moved away, so by the time
the Teacher arrived I was sitting in solitary splendor
against the wall, with a semi-circle of boys not closer than
about twelve feet.
The Indian Teacher came in carrying his delightful little
leather bag, but sniffing, looking about him suspiciously,
his nostrils were working and he was sniffing very audibly.
Half way between the door and the lectern he stopped and
looked about, then he saw that I was sitting alone. He came
towards me but soon retreated, the room was quite warm
with so many boys in it, and with warmth the ointment
was becoming more and more pungent. The Indian
Teacher stopped, put his hands on his hips, and he glared
at me. “My boy, you are the biggest trouble-maker in this
whole country I believe: You upset our beliefs by flying
up and down the mountainside. I saw it all from my own
room, I saw you going up in the distance. You must have
devils teach you in your odd moments, or something. And
now—ough!—you STINK!!”
“Honorable Indian Teacher,” I replied, “I cannot help the
stench, I am merely using ointment prescribed by the Honorable
Infirmarian, and,” I added, greatly daring, “it is much the worse
for me because the stuff is fairly bubbling out of me.” Not a
flicker of a smile crossed his lips, he just turned contemptuously


aside and moved away to the lectern.
“We must get on with our lectures,” said the Indian
Teacher, “for I shall be very glad to leave you and to
journey onwards to more cultured India.” He arranged
his papers, shuffled around a bit, looked suspiciously
at all of us to see if we were paying attention, then he
continued: “Gautama in his wanderings had thought a lot.
For six years he had wandered, spending most of his time
searching for Truth, seeking for Truth, seeking the purpose
behind life. As he wandered he suffered hardships, suffered
privation, hunger, and one of his first questions was ‘Why
am I unhappy?’
“Gautama pondered the question incessantly, and the
answer came to him when the creatures of Nature were
assisting him, the snails cooling his head, the birds fanning
his brow, and all the others keeping quiet that he should
not be disturbed. He decided that there were Four Great
Truths, which he called The Four Noble Truths, which
were the laws of Man's stay on Earth.
“Birth is suffering, said the Buddha. A baby is born to
its mother, causing pain to the mother and pain to the
baby, only through pain can one be born to this Earth, and
the act of being born causes pain and suffering to others.
Decay is suffering; as a man gets older and his body cells
are not able to replenish along the familiar pattern, decay
sets in, organs no longer function correctly, change takes
place, and there is suffering. One cannot grow old without
suffering. Illness is suffering; with the failure of an organ
to operate correctly there is pain, suffering, as the organ
compels the body to readjust to the new condition. Where-
fore it is that illness causes pain and suffering. Death is the
end of illness; death causes suffering, not the act of dying


itself, but the conditions which bring about death are in
themselves painful. Therefore, again, we are unhappy.
“Suffering is caused by the presence of objects which we
hate. We are kept in tension, in frustration, by the pre-
sence of those we dislike. We are made unhappy by the
separation from objects we love; when we are parted from
a dear one, perhaps with no knowledge of when we are
going to be with that person again, then we suffer pain, we
suffer frustration, wherefore we are unhappy.
“To desire, and not to obtain that which we desire, that
is the cause of suffering, that is the cause of loss of happi-
ness, the cause of misery. Wherefore it is that as we desire
and do not obtain, then instead we suffer and are unhappy.
“Death only brings peace, death only brings release from
suffering. Wherefore it is clear that clinging to existence is
clinging to suffering, clinging to existence is that which
makes us unhappy.”
The Indian Teacher looked at us, and said, “The
Buddha, our Blessed Gautama, was not pessimistic but
realistic. Gautama realized that until one can accept facts
one cannot banish suffering. Until one can understand
why there is suffering one cannot progress along the
Middle Way.”

The Teachings stressed a lot about suffering, I thought;
but I remembered what my own dear Guide, the Lama
Mingyar Dondup had said to me. He said, “Let us, Lob-
sang, consider what Gautama really did say. He did not
say that everything causes suffering. No matter what the
Scriptures say; no matter what the Great Teachers say,
Gautama at no time stated that everything is suffering. He
really said that everything holds the POSSIBILITY of suffer-
ing, from which it is clear that every incident of life can
result in pain or discomfort or disharmony. CAN! It is
nowhere stated that everything MUST cause pain.”
There is so much misunderstanding about what Great


Men did or did not say: Gautama had the belief that
suffering, pain, went far beyond mere physical suffering,
mere physical pain. He emphasized at all times that the
sufferings of the mind through the dysfunction of the
emotions was a greater suffering, a greater disharmony,
than any mere physical pain or unhappiness could cause.
Gautama taught “If I am unhappy it is because I am not
living happily, because I am not living in harmony with
nature. If I am not living harmoniously it is because I have
not learned to accept the world as it is, with all its dis-
advantages and POSSIBILITIES of suffering. I can only attain
happiness by realizing the causes of unhappiness and avoid-
ing those causes.”
I was busy thinking of this, and thinking of what an
awful stink that ointment was causing, when the Indian
Teacher slapped his lectern again, and said, “This is the
First of the Noble Truths. Now let us deal with the Second
of the Noble Truths.
“Gautama gave his sermon to his disciples, those who
had previously left him when much of the sensation had
gone from the Teaching, but now they were Gautama's
disciples again. He said to them, “I teach only two things,
suffering and release from suffering. Now this the Noble
Truth as to the origin of suffering. It is the craving thirst
that causes the renewal of becomings; the craving thirst is
accompanied by sensual delights and seeks satisfaction
now here, now there. It takes the form of craving for the
gratification of the senses, or the craving for prosperity and
worldly possessions.”
“As we were taught, suffering follows something which
we have done wrongly, it is the result of a wrong attitude
towards the rest of the world. The world itself is not a bad
place, but some of the people in it make it appear bad, and
it is our own attitude, our own faults, which make the
world seem so bad. Everyone has desires, or cravings, or


lusts, which make one do things which in a more balanced
mood, when free from such cravings and lusts, one would
not do.

“The Great Teaching of the Buddha was that he who
craves cannot be free, and a person who is not free cannot
be happy. Therefore, to overcome craving is to take a big
step forward towards happiness.
“Gautama taught that every person has to find happiness
for himself. He said that there is a happiness that does not
give contentment, it is merely a transient thing and is the
type of happiness which a person obtains when he or she
wants change always, always want to flit around seeing
fresh sights, meeting fresh people. That is transient
happiness. The true happiness is that which gives one
deep contentment, gives one's soul release from dissatis-
faction. Gautama said, “When in following after happiness ..
I have perceived that bad qualities develop, and good
qualities were diminished, then that kind of happiness is
to be avoided. When following after happiness I have per-
ceived that bad qualities were diminished and good
qualities developed; such happiness is to be followed.”
“We, then, have to stop chasing about after the idle
things of the flesh, the things which do not endure into the
next world, we have to stop trying to satisfy cravings which
grow the more we feed them, and, instead, we have to think
what are we really looking for, how shall we find it? We
have to think of the nature of our cravings, the cause of
our cravings, and having known the cause of our cravings,
then we can seek to remove that cause.”
Our Teacher was warming up to his subject. He was
being a little troubled, too, by the smell of herbal ointment
for he said, “We will have a recess for the moment because
I do not want to overstrain your mentality which, I per-
ceive, is not at all the mentality of my Indian students.”
He picked up his papers, put them in his case, carefully


snapped the lock, and held his breath as he walked by me.
For a few moments the other boys sat still waiting for his
footsteps to die away in the distance. Then one turned to
me and said, “Pooh! Lobsang, you do stink! It must be
because you have been mixing with devils, flying up and
down to heaven with them.” I replied quite reasonably,
“Well, if I have been mixing with devils I should not be
flying to heaven with them, but the other way, and as
everyone knows I flew up.” We dispersed and went our
way. I went to the window and looked out pensively,
wondering what my Guide was doing at the Rose Fence
Lamasery, wondering how I should fill in the time with
this Indian Teacher whom I thoroughly disliked. I
thought that if he was such a good Buddhist as he imag-
ined himself to be, then he would have more understand-
ing and feeling for small boys.
As I was standing there thinking a young lama came into
the room in a hurry. “Lobsang!” he said. “Come quickly,
the Inmost One will see you.” Then he stopped and said,
“Pooh! Whatever have you done?” So I told him about the
herbal ointment, and he said, “Let us hurry to the Infirmarian
to see what can be done to get rid of that stench before you
see the Inmost One. Come—quickly.”


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